July 14, 2017 10:55:52 AM
The Golden Triangle's three primary cities posted a mixed bag for sales tax results in May.
Sales tax disbursements were up, compared to last year, in Columbus and Starkville, while they were down in West Point, which is now starting its new fiscal year.
Taxes run on a three-month process, where they are collected one month, sent to the Mississippi Department of Revenue the next and then distributed to municipalities. The money distributed in July was collected in May.
Columbus received $843,339 from MDR. The total is $32,278 more than the $811,061 the city took in last year. This month's total is the highest July collection the city has ever received.
Mayor Robert Smith said he's pleased with the city's sales taxes results for the year and is looking forward to growth once the fall arrives.
"If municipalities can survive the summer, that's a sign that something good is going on in the city," he said. "Once football season starts, I think you'll see a tremendous increase with all the people who come to town and eat and use hotels."
Smith added that the strong sales tax results are good to see as the city begins work on its Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
To date, Columbus has pulled in $8.2 million in sales tax collections for the current fiscal year, which ends in September. The total is about $300,000 behind the year-to-date total from the same time in FY 2016. The main difference appears to be spike in collections from April 2016, when the city pulled in more than $1.1 million in sales tax revenue. The city received $809,954 from April of this year -- a total that would have been a record without the massive collections in April 2016.
April 2016's total is by far the single-highest monthly intake the city has received in at least the last seven years, according to data from Chief Financial Officer Milton Rawle's office. The month propelled the city along to a record year with more than $10.2 million in sales tax revenue.
Smith said he's not concerned about the difference since collections have generally kept pace with the rest of the previous fiscal year.
"If we had stayed down month after month, I'd be very concerned," he said. "But it has increased as the months progressed."
In Starkville, monthly and year-to-date sales tax collections are up.
The city received $564,539 in sales tax revenue this month, which is $50,809 higher than this time last year.
Starkville has received $5.88 million in sales tax collections so far this fiscal year. That's trending ahead of the $5.75 million the city took in by the same point in FY 2016.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said she's pleased with the sales tax growth and hopes to see the trend continue.
"I'm always happy to see that the sales tax remains on the increase," Spruill said. "We use them in ways that are beneficial for the community and want that trend to continue. That's part of why we're so supportive of the business community.
"We want that to continue into the next four years and beyond," she added. "I'm going to be working to make that happen, as well as the rest of the staff and elected leaders of the city.
Spruill also said it's good to see improved financial strength as Starkville works on its budget.
"When we budget, we generally budget conservatively," she said. "If our sales tax are up 5 percent, we generally budget less than that. If it exceeds the 2 or 2.5 percent we budgeted for, we find ourselves in a much better position. We'd rather be conservative than budget for 5 or 7 percent and have that not materialize."
Sales tax collections for the start of West Point's FY 2018 are off to a slower start than last year.
The city received $168,134 in July distributions from May collections, compared to $206,780 in July 2016.
West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson said part of the issue is that the city will lose $18,000 in revenue every month through June 2019 because of an overpayment from a local business.
"The state Department of Revenue takes that off of our monthly remittance," he said. "We found out about it back in March. It occurred over a long period of time. (MDR is) very secretive. We wanted to know who (the business was) but they wouldn't tell us."
Robinson said the change also impacted FY 2017's collections, which came in lower than FY 2016. Fiscal Year 2017, ended last month for West Point, saw the city bring in $2.15 million in sales tax revenue. West Point received $2.4 million in sales tax revenue in FY 2016.
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